Graduates of CNM: Vanessa Benavidez

Vanessa struggled when she first enrolled at CNM. But thanks to the college’s support system she was able to graduate with flying colors and is now one step closer to a new job in tech
September 21, 2021

Vanessa Benavidez was working as a healthcare administrator when COVID-19 hit. She and her colleagues were immediately affected by the pandemic and her work became chaotic and unpredictable. Looking for a new start, she saw a CNM billboard one day that advertised the college’s Internet of Things (IoT) bootcamp. She had already taken classes at CNM and decided to give it a shot.

“I liked that IoT was hands-on and I found the subject interesting so I decided to give it a shot,” she says. 

Unfortunately, Vanessa got off to a rough start. As a single mom it was hard to balance her time and she got frustrated and embarrassed as she fell behind in class. 

“I was so overwhelmed and wanted to give up because I was struggling so badly,” she says. “During school it was really hard because I was used to being with my son a lot. It was sad because I missed him and he missed me.” 

At home she says her son struggled to understand why she had to do homework instead of play with him.

Eventually, Vanessa spoke to a CNM counselor who suggested she talk to her bootcamp instructor Brian Rashap.

“I was scared. I honestly felt ashamed because I didn't want to admit that I was wanting to quit. What got me through the class was talking to my instructor and putting together a plan. That immediately made all the difference,” she says. 

The plan was simple. Brian told Vanessa to ask as many questions as possible and collaborate with her classmates. Once she did those two things the curriculum started to click and she got back on track. 

“Everyone in IoT wanted to see me finish the class and I felt really supported,” she says.

One of Vanessa’s first successful IoT projects was a toy box that encouraged her son to pick up his toys using music and disco lights. Next, she developed a smart device that can tell campers whether their campfire is completely out. Using an infrared sensor, the device reads the heat coming off the fire pit and turns on either a green or red light to tell the campers if they’re all set to leave.

“With so many forest fires happening around the world, I wanted to design something that could prevent this problem before it got out of hand,” she says. 

Vanessa says she’s proud of her projects, especially after her bumpy start. Those projects are also being recognized by the broader community, including the 2021 New Mexico Outdoor Economics Conference, which invited her to present later this month.  

Going forward, Vanessa plans to stay in school. She’s currently considering an engineering degree—something she would have never considered just a couple months back. Ultimately, she’d like to do cutting-edge research at a place like Sandia. 

“The IoT bootcamp opened my eyes to what is possible and I’m excited to truly fulfill my potential,” she says. 

Enrollment is now open for the winter session of the Internet of Things Bootcamp, as well as other Deep Dive offerings. Apply here.